Taliban says UN report on human rights abuses a ‘propaganda’

The Taliban has reacted to the recent joint report by UN Special Rapporteur, Richard Bennett, and the UN Working Group on human rights abuses in Afghanistan.

The group’s longtime spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, branded the report, which documents widespread violations, as being part of a propaganda campaign against it.

Mujahid said in a tweet on Tuesday: “The United Nations and some Western Institutions and Governments are spreading propaganda against the Islamic Emirate, Richard Bennett’s report on the situation in Afghanistan is a part of such propaganda which does not reflect the realities.”

The joint report released last Thursday documented the dire situation of human rights in the country since the Taliban take over in August 2021, particularly underlining the widespread and systematic discrimination against women and girls.

The report recorded 50 edicts by the Taliban against women and girls between September 2021 and May 2023, including repressive measures aimed at banning girls’ education beyond the sixth grade, barring women’s access to higher education and employment, including working for UN agencies, forbidding women in public spaces such as restaurants, gyms, and parks, curtailing women’s rights to peaceful assembly and political and civil participation, and imposing other limitations on women’s public life and freedoms.

However, the Taliban’s chief spokesperson, said that the group is implementing “Islamic laws” in the country and any objections to these laws are a “problem” with Islam.

The UN Human Rights Council meeting was held Monday where the Special Rapporteur, Chair of the UN Working Group Dorothy Estrada, and several human rights and women’s rights activists and experts made presentations on the situation of human rights, particularly of women and girls, in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule.

Bennett presented key highlights of the report on the worsening human rights situation and the resilience and strength of women in the face of repressive conditions perpetuated by the Taliban authorities, stating that “grave, systematic, and institutionalized discrimination against women and girls is at the heart of Taliban ideology and rule which also gives rise to concerns that they may be responsible for gender apartheid.”

Shaharzad Akbar, the former chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said that the Taliban have turned Afghanistan into a “mass graveyard of Afghan women’s and girls’ ambitions, dreams, and potentials” and stressed that the international community is “either passively watching this mass graveyard, at most issuing some statements, or in some cases actively assisting and complying with this.”

Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the Council that no country in the world had imposed more restrictions on women and girls than the Taliban and called upon the international community to continue to “express their collective outrage at the denial of fundamental rights of women and girls and support the local voices of Afghan women inside the country.”

Nasir Andisha, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the UN in Geneva, highlighted in his remarks that the Taliban regime bans women and girls because of their gender identity and this is an “assault on the fundamental international law”.

Samira Hamidi, from Amnesty International, said that the international community must hold the Taliban authorities accountable for their oppressive gender-based persecution and discrimination.

Madina Mahboobi, a human rights activist, urged the international community to “explore every possible avenue to engage with the de facto authorities and address the crises that Afghans are grappling with,” which prompted some backlash from women’s rights groups, such as the Afghanistan Women Protestors Movement Coalition who expressed concerns about “narrative being propagated” to engage with the Taliban as the solution to Afghanistan’s problems.

Sitara Mohammadi, from the Human Rights Center of Australia, raised the issue of the Hazara Genocide in her remarks and highlighted the exclusionary and oppressive Taliban behavior against members of the group who are marginalized and discriminated against at the local and national levels.